After stirring up some people with the recent story I wrote about the Port of Tracyton’s annexation request that will be on the Nov. 8 ballot, I thought it only fair that I attend the port commissioner meeting last week to see how many people showed up.
Based on the series of comments below my story, I went to the meeting expecting a large crowd, and possibly some pitchforks. I was surprised when instead only four people were waiting to enter the small Tracyton Community Library for the meeting. Everyone was in good spirits and it appeared they were there to learn more about the plans for the waterfront and not to attack the three port commissioners.
Commission chairman William Mooney explained to the group the port’s plans, saying instead of raising taxes commissioners chose to expand the port district’s reach. He said my article was vague in its description of what the commissioners would like to see done along the waterfront, and went into explaining what they have in mind.
“We’d like to make some improvements,” Mooney said. “A little pier, little dock. Nothing huge, nothing big.”
The commissioners would like to add a pier and dock that could be accessed by motorized and non-motorized use, but have their sights set on appealing to kayaks, canoes and rowing-type vessels that could tie up during high and low tide. Motorized boats would probably be able to launch from the site during high tide, Mooney said.
Because there’s launches nearby in Silverdale and Bremerton, the Port of Tracyton doesn’t see a need to add that type of use, he said. Commissioners just want to create a “nice, little, non-big thing for (people) to use for their boats,” he said.
The reason the commissioners are looking to increase their revenues is because they don’t have enough money to build and maintain the facilities they would like to see in the long term. In addition to the dock/pier, they’ve talked about adding a 50- to 80-foot boardwalk and eventually bathrooms for people so they don’t have to run up to the businesses and use their facilities.
Commissioners hope to apply for grants to help fund construction and project costs, but before they do that they want to ensure they’ll have enough money to maintain the facilities once their built. If approved, the annexation would almost double the port’s annual collections.
The last time the port annexed was in 2008 when it added 1,500 homes near Tracyton’s border with Silverdale. At the time commissioners said they needed the annexation to generate the revenues to begin the work along the waterfront. But that expansion didn’t generate enough revenue and with budget cuts hitting the state’s funding for its grant programs, commissioners haven’t been able to get started on any of the projects.
Port attorney Phil Best also took time at the meeting to clarify a question posed by a man who read my story and had some concerns. Here’s an excerpt from an email he sent to Best:
“I am concerned that if the annex is passed and now Port of Tracyton borders the Port of Bremerton, RCW 53.04.120 could be used to transfer the Port of Tracyton to the Port of Bremerton without any vote and suddenly the tax rate would go from 4 cents to whatever the Port of Bremerton is currently collecting.”
Best looked into this RCW and whether one port could ever transfer its district to another district without a vote of the public. Here is his legal opinion:
… RCW 53.04.120 only applies to land actually owned by one port district and located within another port district. Where such land is adjacent to or within one-quarter mile of the port district that owns this land, this statute allows such land to become part of the port district that owns the land with consent of both port districts and the boundaries between the port district to be readjusted accordingly.
I discussed this with the Washington Public Port Association, and believe that the law was passed in 1977 to address a special need to allow two ports to agreeably adjust their boundaries in this limited circumstance. In the situation raised (in the above email inquiry), this statute would only apply to land actually owned by the Port of Bremerton and lying within the Port of Tracyton and within one-quarter mile of the Port of Bremerton boundary, and would not apply to other land within the Port of Tracyton not actually owned by the Port of Bremerton (that is, it would not apply to land owned by individuals…)
Bremerton City Councilman Jim McDonald was at the meeting and told the commissioners the area they hope to annex is his district. He said he was considering holding a public meeting to answer any questions his constituents might have about the annexation. He asked if one of the commissioners might make themselves available for the meeting. Mooney said he’d be glad to attend.
If I hear more about this meeting I’ll post it here.